Barbara Dee explores the subject of #MeToo for the middle grade audience in this heart-wrenching—and ultimately uplifting—novel about experiencing harassment and unwanted attention from classmates.
For seventh-grader Mila, it starts with some boys giving her an unwanted hug on the school blacktop. A few days later, at recess, one of the boys (and fellow trumpet player) Callum tells Mila it’s his birthday, and asks her for a “birthday hug.” He’s just being friendly, isn’t he? And how can she say no? But Callum’s hug lasts a few seconds too long, and feels…weird. According to her friend, Zara, Mila is being immature and overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?
But the boys don’t leave Mila alone. On the bus. In the halls. During band practice—the one place Mila could always escape.
It doesn’t feel like flirting—so what is it? Thanks to a chance meeting, Mila begins to find solace in a new place: karate class. Slowly, with the help of a fellow classmate, Mila learns how to stand her ground and how to respect others—and herself.
From the author of Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed comes this timely story of a middle school girl standing up and finding her voice.”
Dee (Everything I Know About You) draws a clear distinction between flirtation and sexual harassment in this timely, sensitively wrought novel about a seventh-grade girl who receives unwanted attention from a group of classmates. When Mila wears her fuzzy green sweater, some boys demand an unwanted hug, and the basketball players insist on touching it (and her) for good luck. Despite Mila's protests, unwanted touching continues even after she stops wearing the sweater, but Mila is reticent to add to her divorced mother's stress after she loses her job. Mila finally shares her discomfort with her friends; Omi smooths things over, Zara thinks the boys are merely flirting, and Max believes that Mila should tell the (male) vice principal she's being bullied. More confused than ever, she remains silent until karate classes give her the skill set and courage to fight back and speak out. The novel's all-too-familiar scenario offers a springboard for discussion among middle schoolers about Mila's experience, as well as her confusion, fear, and reluctance to discuss her situation with authority figures. Easily grasped scenarios and short chapters help make this timely #MeToo story accessible to a wide audience. Ages 9 13.